Patchwork Quilt: Older worker employment program
While many seniors are financially reliant upon Social Security and personal savings after they retire, some decide for various reasons to continue working. For those who are seeking work or are forced to change jobs later in life, Elderbridge offers its Older Worker Employment Program. The program started in 2014 and helps those 55 and older overcome barriers that would otherwise keep them from being gainfully employed.
The Older Worker Employment Program is a partnership between Iowa Vocation Rehabilitation Services and the Iowa Agencies on Aging. This coalition found that those aged 55 and older were a largely forgotten population when it came to programs and services in finding employment.
Caseworkers from the program work alongside a vocational rehabilitation counselor to identify those who need assistance seeking employment and pair them with employment specialists in the state. Elderbridge’s resident employment specialist is Marsha Harmonson. She works to connect workers with specific skill sets and needs to employers that have specific occupational demands and can accommodate the needs of their employees.
The task of connecting elder workers to the right employer is no small feat. Harmonson’s typical workday is a hectic one, and her phone is almost always ringing. She has a long history of connecting employees and employers, having worked with the planning commission in Spencer for 12 years. Harmonson says “Everybody is an individual, has a different work background and different work interests, different skills they can bring to the job and different accommodations they’re going to need on the job.” For her hard work and dedication, Harmonson was recently recognized by the Iowa Department on Aging for her fantastic work within Elderbridge as the leading Elder Workers employment specialist. The employees she has helped say Harmonson’s ability to place workers and keep them feeling fulfilled in the jobs that they do is second to none.
Harmonson says that she and other employment specialists working in other Iowa agencies are receiving ever more referrals as workers 55 and older are learning about the program and its continuing success. It’s hoped that in the future the program can keep assisting the hundreds of older workers seeking employment and give them the opportunities they need and deserve.